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400-metre walk indicator of life expectancy

3rd May 2006

Researchers in the US claim that a new walking test can indicate the life expectancy of elderly people, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health believe that elderly people able to walk 400 metres are half as likely to die in the coming six years compared to those who couldn't.

In addition, of the 2,200 70 to 79 year olds who performed the experiment, those who failed to complete the course were found to be at far greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and three times more likely to develop a disability.

"The ability to complete this walk was a powerful predictor of health outcomes," said lead author, Anne Newman, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Although quite simple, the 400-metre walk appears to be a highly accurate way to predict whether or not someone may be experiencing early problems and needs an immediate referral into an intervention program to help them increase their activity and physical stamina," she added.

Those who clocked the fastest times for the 400-metre trip were found to be at least risk of developing health problems in the coming years.